Monthly Archives: February 2015

Match the Genre Answers

Yesterday I posted a Match the Genre task. I have heard that your first sentence should scream genre. The object was to match the first sentence of some Best Seller Top Ten novels to their respective genre.

My conclusion is that this might be more myth than rule. It may be true for certain genre, but not all.

Here is the key:

  1. Paranormal Romance, B. “Women have always been the property of men.” Given to the Pack, Abby Weeks
  2. Fantasy, D. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.” Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  3. Horror, F. “In one way, at least, our lives really are like movies.” Revival, Stephen King
  4. Mystery, H. “Midnight fell at The First Bank of Cleveland with the lonely clang of the great clock in the lobby.” The Dead Key, D.M. Pulley
  5. Science Fiction, E. “Karl Selig steadied himself on the ship’s rail and peered through the binoculars at the massive iceberg.” The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle
  6. Historical Fiction, A. “I believe in ghosts.” Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
  7. Crime Fiction, G. “Zoe recoiled from the nightmare only to find it still existed in the waking world.” The One That Got Away, Simon Wood
  8. Romance, C. “That fucking prick.” Prick: A Step-Brother Romance, Sabrina Paige

Certainly you could have switched the Historical Fiction and Science Fiction around. I could see the Crime Fiction one as Horror. I might have made the Mystery one as Historical Fiction (After all who hears a grand clock chime in contemporary times?).  Paranormal Romance and Fantasy I might have expected, but “That fucking prick,” doesn’t sound very Romantic. Nothing much Horrific about Stephen King’s opening line.

I went back online to see some more Crime Fiction, because Crime Fiction, Horror and Mystery can be so close. Here’s what I found in some other novels in the Top Ten:

“Lori Kimball had three rules for the death race home.”

“There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks.”

“Five figures formed a pentagram around a freshly dug mound.”

“In April 2008, Neal Lagiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury.”

“After his arrest at Galaxy’s casino, Billy was handcuffed and transported to the Clark County Detention Center, where he sat chained to a chair while a knuckle-dragging deputy two-finger-typed the charges against him into a desktop.”

“Six years ago, my band’s bassist was shot dead in a New York night club.”

 “Patrick sat alone.”

“’You just got out of jail?’”

“Arnie Milhouse never considered himself much of a hero.”

Running through most of these I could see Crime Fiction, but I don’t think but one or two actually screamed to me. Not like the Odd Thomas book screams paranormal suspense:

“Alone in the vastness of the Mojave, at two o’clock in the morning, racing along at seventy miles per hour, I felt safe and believed that whatever terror might await me was yet many miles ahead.”

Do you struggle with your first sentence?

Just write it until you get it right!

Let’s Play the Genre Match Game!

I have heard it said that your first sentence in a novel should scream genre. Anyone should be able to pick up the book, read the first sentence and know exactly what genre they have picked up.

GenreI’m not so sure about that. Seems like a lead-in is oftentimes a pretty wise thing. Maybe with certain genres is mandatory, but others not so.

A few months ago I found a box of my old writing from twenty-thirty years ago in a closet. There is some pretty decent stuff in there. I found the beginning of a story, about one-third of a novel’s worth. I’ve reread it and now I’m recalling where I was going with this thing, so I’ve been thinking about rewriting. Obviously, this has been rattling around in my brain for quite some time and was recently refreshed.

It’s a story with paranormal elements, probably because I was experiencing some paranormal phenomena at the time, but it also has some criminal-minded suspense. It needs to be written

I’ve been mulling over how to get the rewrite started, so I took to some paranormal suspense book’s Look Insides to check out some first sentences. I learn well by example.

This is what I found in the Top Ten Amazon Best Sellers:

Paranormal suspense:


“Alone in the vastness of the Mojave, at two o’clock in the morning, racing along at seventy miles per hour, I felt safe and believed that whatever terror  might await me was yet many miles ahead.”  Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel, Dean Koontz—Paranormal suspense

I was blown away. I thought this sentence really nailed it. You read it and just know “Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller” is in front of you. I’m just waiting on the edge of my seat for something paranormal to jump out of the desert at Thomas. That first sentence made me want to buy this book.

So I looked down the list in the top ten and here are the next three:

“Plunging her hands into a wad of pizza dough, Edie Holbrook came to realize she had forgotten to turn on the radio two seconds too late.” The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn—Paranormal suspense

“Ghosts didn’t have much substance.” The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness—Paranormal suspense

“’All right, you handsome devils, if y’all are here for this evening’s Liar’s Tour of Savannah, then you are at the right place,’ I said, surveying the group of men who had found their way to the Waving Girl Statue.” The Line, J.D. Horn—Paranormal Suspense

I thought the Odd Thomas sentence was awesome, but the others just didn’t do it for me. None of them. Of the top ten in this genre there was not one other first sentence that even came close to paranormal suspense. “Ghosts didn’t have much substance.” Hinted of paranormal, but no suspense.

So I looked through some other genres to see what they were doing. I picked Best Seller books in the top ten that were high in ranking and had the most reviews as of nine o’clock last night. Some are by well-known authors and some not so famous.

See if you can hook these up. Either write the numbers and matching letters in comments, or privately on a piece of scratch paper. (You can check back tomorrow for results.)

The genres were:

  1. Paranormal Romance
  2. Fantasy
  3. Horror
  4. Mystery
  5. Science Fiction
  6. Historical Fiction
  7. Crime Fiction
  8. Romance

Here is a list of the first sentences:

A. “I believe in ghosts.”

B. “Women have always been the property of men.”

C. “That fucking prick.”

D. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.”

E. “Karl Selig steadied himself on the ship’s rail and peered through the binoculars at the massive iceberg.”

F. “In one way, at least, our lives really are like movies.”

G. “Zoe recoiled from the nightmare only to find it still existed in the waking world.”

H. “Midnight fell at The First Bank of Cleveland with the lonely clang of the great clock in the lobby.”

Come on. Take a minute or two and play the game. Match the sentences to the genre they belong to. I’m really curious to see if this is an easy task for you.

Tomorrow I’ll post the titles, authors and genres. Honor system, no peeking.

Do first sentences have to scream genre?

Have you ever purchased a book based solely on its first sentence?

Have you ever chosen to skip a book because of its first sentence?

 If the first paragraph gets your attention, is it still necessary for the first sentence grab you?

Survey about Reading Habits (How do YOU Read?)

Readers, writers need your feedback. Take a few secs to run through the survey.



How do you prefer to read books?

How often do you read?

Authors, would you like to know your readers’ habits?

Readers, would you please participate in a quick survey?

I’ll leave the survey up indefinitely, so anyone who finds it can take it. Just look at the top of my blog anytime you wish to find it (look for the Surveys button).

Here are the original survey questions:

You’ll see the results after you answer each question. Select the best answer.

Please take the survey.

And tell your friends.

And spread the word.

Authors everywhere will LOVE you for it. 🙂

After you vote, you can even share a specific question with Facebook and Twitter. Or you can share the post itself (with all questions included).

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

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Ten Qualities of an Authorpreneur and How to Become One

As authors, we’ve all been told we have to run our authorship like a business. The French word “preneur” means taker; one who takesEntrepreneurship is the process of starting a business or other organization. The entrepreneur develops a business model, acquires the human and other required resources, and is fully responsible for its success or failure. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for being an author!

A fairly new buzz word in the writing world is “authorpreneur”. What does being an entrepreneur have to do with being an author?

A Gallup study of 1000 entrepreneurs and published by Forbes listed the ten qualities of highly successful business entrepreneurs. I’ve considered this list and came up with with some ways authors and business leaders parallel and what you can do to think and act like an entrepreneur. The authorpreneur is an entrepreneur in the writing world.

  1. Business Focus: They base decisions on the potential to turn a profit. Whether you are writing for a living or as a hobby, you need book sales to establish a readership.
  2. Confidence: They know themselves well and can read others. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. Seek feedback. Do you write best in present tense, past tense? Do you work best with an outline? Can writing out character profiles help you with character development? Are you networking to find your audience?
  3. Creative Thinker: They know how to turn an existing project or idea into something even better. Character falling flat? Give them flaws, give them a relationship. How do they handle stress? Explore them deeply. Setting not working for a story? Tweak it. Change it. Kick up the pace, twist a plot. Trust your instincts.
  4. Delegator: They don’t try to do it all. Know who you can depend on. Have you beta read for people? Have they beta read for you? Who participates in blog tours? Do you have an editor you can trust? Is there a proofreader who is particularly adept? If your answer to any of these questions is no, none, or I don’t know, find your resources and delegate!
  5. Determination: They battle their way through difficult obstacles. When you hit a snag do you give up or make a change? Flexibility is key. The only thing constant in life is change.
  6. Independent: They will do whatever it takes to succeed in the business. Never give up. When people scoff at your decision to write, ignore them. Not everyone feels your passion like you do. Share it with those who do.
  7. Knowledge-Seeker: They constantly hunt down information that will help them keep the business growing. Read and read some more. Read fiction, read craft books, read reputable blogs. Write poetry, short stories, novellas, novels. Keep writing. Keep practicing. Keep learning.
  8. Promoter: They do the best job as spokesperson for the business. Become a shameless self-promoter (without becoming obnoxious). Tap all the resources you can, book signings, libraries, writer symposiums, Twitter, Facebook, the blogging community. Don’t have time for them all…pick one or two and be relentless.
  9. Relationship-Builder: They have high social intelligence and an ability to build relationships that aid their firm’s growth. Project a positive business image. You have but a passing moment to make a positive and memorable impression on people with whom you intend to do business. Collaborate when you can, and when you can’t, make certain to offer a professional explanation.
  10. Risk-Taker: They have good instincts when it comes to managing high-risk situations. Entrepreneurs exist to defy conventional wisdom. They know when to break the rules.1421256703-7-traits-successful-entrepreneurs DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?

Non-Committal Commitments

We’ve had company for the past few days, a lovely lady from Texas that we have known for years. It was nice to play catch-up, but I’ve been sparsely reading blogs and not commenting too much.

Two quick notes: Naked Alliances has been with the proofreader this week and so far only one or two sentences needed corrections. I left off the word a before bag, put it in a bag, not put it in bag. The other was a sentence that answered a question the speaker had just referred to someone else to answer.  Haven’t a clue why I did that.

About my meds: I ordered them from Expressscripts. Don’t let the name fool you. Even though I paid to have them expedited, they don’t expedite processing, just mailing…so they were late getting to me. I thought with two weeks they would have plenty of time to get to me, but I was wrong.

I was without my meds for six or seven days. I decided when they got here, having missed several days, I would start with halves instead of wholes. I see the doc today to let him know where I am on this. I had decided not to make any changes, but I can’t help myself. I want to know.

The Naked Eye series outlines haven’t been touched.

Surviving Sister is waiting in the wings. I went back over the seven chapters I wrote and I’m feeling too much backstory, so I may start over…or I may start something new entirely.

That’s the joy of hobby writing, I have no deadlines and no established line of books where readers are waiting for the next thing. I write leisurely until I put the pressure on myself.

There are two or three stories rolling around in this crazy head, but nothing has gelled quite right, so I am toying with ideas. When I set my mind to it, and the conditions are right, it will be written.

Red Clay and Roses was written quite by accident. My writing is young and I don’t see myself committing to genre specifics at this point. Maybe I’ll find my niche, maybe I already have and just don’t know it yet. All I really know is that I enjoy writing and will keep on keeping on.

Have you found your niche?

Ever think about exploring something new?


Book review: Love Aflame by Pamela Beckford: Perfect for Valentine’s Day

There is a sexy poetry book out that your lover would love to find a copy of in his or her email this morning. Score yourself some points. You don’t have to think them up and write them down. Pamela Beckford has already done that for you and they are HOT.

All poetry is personal to the writer, the reader and the recipient. Filled with lust and love, these poems will give you an edge at reaching out to the one you love and touching their heart and soul with words to be cherished. Love Aflame is a sexy collection of poetry inspired by love that will have your partner swooning and longing to be embraced in your arms. Some of the poems demonstrate the angst of being separated and an impassioned desire to be together. They made me think about what it must be like to have a lover serving overseas and the things you would whisper to that person through the distance every night, the emotions of the hungry heart.

This collection of love poems has them sultry and sweet. There are short poems you can memorize easily to whisper in your lover’s ear, and longer poems that will leave your lover breathless when read aloud. Pamela notes each poem with its form and there is a form index in the back explaining how they are achieved for those who wish to understand more or try their hand at their own creation.

5 of 5 Stars

Reader Audiences Matter Most: To whom are you appealing?


The question in the title of this post can’t always be answered.

This is not a book review, but I am taking the liberty to use The Goldfinch to make some of my points. I’m only a little more than halfway finished with this book and I usually don’t look at other reviews until I have completed the book and written my own review when I do book reviews for indie authors. I did read some of the reviews for this book when I approached the halfway mark, because I wasn’t certain I wanted to continue. I have mixed feelings. It’s well-written, and then it’s not. I’ll try to explain.

I read across many genres, and seldom post book reviews for traditionally published books. Gone Girl, The Girl of the Train, Fifty Shades, The Fault in Our Stars and other such reads, have garnered so much attention I feel less compelled to promote them. I mostly provide reviews to promote Indies that I feel I can recommend.

I’ve brought up the issue of commercial fiction versus literary fiction before. I know there are some authors who cross-over exceptionally well and have become quite popular up-market authors.

Annie Neugebauer has a nifty article here explaining the differences and providing some examples:

Her key points (which are debatable) are as follows:


The aim of commercial fiction is entertainment.

The aim of literary fiction is art.



In commercial fiction, the protagonist does the work.

In literary fiction, the reader does the work.



In commercial fiction, the writing style is clean and pared-down.

In literary fiction, the writing style takes more risks.



The main character of commercial fiction aims to be likable to the reader.

The main character of literary fiction aims to reveal the human condition.



Commercial fiction follows genre precepts.

Literary fiction toys with genre precepts.

Granted, there is commercial genre fiction that has aspects of literary fiction, and literary fiction which has aspects of commercial genre appeal, but I think Annie does well to summarize these.

A side note here from SoIReadThisBookToday : Is that much of what is marketed and sold digitally actually isn’t read in the digital form of the most popular books. “With Gone Girl, the third most purchased book at Kobo, only 46 percent of the readers who purchased the book made it to the end. Fifty Shades of Gray? Only 48 percent could stomach it all the way through. The most popular French book, in terms of sales, shows “Le Suicide Français,” may have been a runaway hit in terms of sales, but just 7 percent of Kobo’s French readers made it through the book’s conclusion.”

That tells me that just because a book is trendy, doesn’t mean it was all that well received by the audience.

This doesn’t take into account paper copies sold. I’m still not sure about reviews. Seems like people who really love a book or really hate it are most likely to leave a review. Of course the trendier books will have more positive reviews.

Which brings me back to The Goldfinch, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

(19,812) Total reviews on Amazon

3.7 out of 5 stars

5 star



4 star



3 star



2 star



1 star



Now this book stayed on the Amazon Top 100 Best Sellers list for months last year. (Long before it became a Pulitzer Prize.) There are reviews posted everywhere. There are even full length books being sold that analyze this piece of work.

It does seem to be one of those books that crosses over to up-market fiction.

It’s artful.

Both the reader and the protagonist have to do some of the work.

The writing style is certainly risky.

There is a great focus on the human condition.

And it does follow genre precepts (primarily mystery novel).

Here’s the deal though: It is the very thing that editors are telling us all the time simply doesn’t work.

Apparently it does.

It is also 755 pages long.

As part of her Indie Authors Series , Jodie Renner tells us:  How to Slash Your Word Count by 20-40% – and tighten your story without losing any of the good stuff!

Is your manuscript too long?

  • Do you have a meandering, overly wordy writing style? If so, you’ll need to tighten it up by cutting all unnecessary words.
  • Do you have long descriptions of the setting or characters, or lengthy character backstory?
  • Are there any scenes that drag, lack in tension and intrigue, or just don’t drive the story forward?
  • Have you or others noticed repetitions of various kinds (imagery, plot points, ideas, descriptions, phrases, words)?
  • In general, can your scenes, paragraphs and sentences be leaner?


She goes on to say that you have to “earn your right to write long”. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement. I think it is more a matter of style and what the reader prefers.


Most genre commercial fiction and much of what I read that was written by indie authors follows Jodie’s points. These, for the most part, are easy reads. They appeal to a modern audience that wants fast everything. But if you are looking for deeply thought-provoking literature, you are probably not going to find it in a pared down version of a story.


The Goldfinch is reminiscent of the greatest literature I have ever read. Jodie Renner, as an editor, would have had a field day with it. And, yet, I see her points. The Goldfinch could have probably been cut of a good 250 to 300 pages and been a much tighter, more readable novel without loosing either that value of the prose or content of the story.

 I am having a Love:Hate relationship with this book. I hope I am able to finish it.

Donna Tartt is inspired by magic, beauty in the everyday, and love…no matter what. The Goldfinch is infused with adventure, love of life, and great souls. There are wonderful passages of clever, artful prose. It appeals to my heart, spirit, and mind.

However, there is stream of consciousness that meanders all over the pages, often not making any point at all relevant to the crux of the story being told. There are miles-long sentences filled with colons, semi-colons, multiple commas that drag through entire paragraphs and will make you cringe and scream. I would like to think there is some masterful symbolism here, but it’s buried deep.

I’m 100% positive that she had to have an exclusive editor that could deeply appreciate her prose.

It all boils down to what audience you are appealing to as an author.

Do you ever really know?

I’ll keep writing my genre fiction crime novel series and maintain that bare bones writing style, but I’m not giving up on my philosophical, artful prose just yet. Maybe with enough practice in both styles, I’ll someday be a popular cross over, up-market author. I won’t hold my breath, but it’s fun to dream.

I don’t envy the parts of The Goldfinch that make me cringe and want to scream, but I do admire that Donna Tartt had the guts to write until her heart was content and put it out here for a reader audience to enjoy.

Create a Hyperlinked Table of Contents

This comes in handy for us folk who like to page back and forth in ebooks. Especially if it is a longer book. Red Clay and Roses has one and I think any book should. One of the biggest complaints of digital over paper is that people can’t thumb through pages or go back and check details. This makes it so much easier.

Life in the Realm of Fantasy

TOC 1One great convenience that an indie author can place in their Kindle, Nook or Smashwords e-book is a Hyperlinked Table of Contents. This is something I use all the time –it allows me to easily page back and forth.

The one I am using for this is an ancient file for the book that spawned Huw the Bard,  so ignore the page numbers. In those days I didn’t know that page numbers are like prisoners—they just weigh you down!  If you have seen my previous post on this subject you can quit now and I won’t hold it against you.  However, if you are in the middle of formatting your first manuscript, this post may be of use to you!

For print versions, I keep costs down by not wasting precious pages on something the reader won’t use. However, printed technical manuals, textbooks, and cookbooks must include a TOC. In print books, every…

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Boat Scam Resolution

Since I ranted on here about our boat dilemma, it’s only fair I come on here and update you on our progress. I wrote about that here:

The rocket scientist checks with the bank every day to see if the lien has been paid. Well, today, the lien has been paid.

Don’t know if the guy is totally honest, or whether he was concerned about the threat of legal action. At any rate, he came through.

He’s deprived us of our property and failed to pay since December  7th.

The detective in Lee County assured us we would not be held liable if he wrecked the boat, smuggled drugs, or some other atrocious act, since we reported it to authorities. Thank goodness none of that came to pass, but better safe than sorry.

He still owes us a couple hundred, but we’re not holding our breath. Better to let it go and get the boat out of our name so he can do whatever and we’ll be completely out of the picture.

Now, we can enjoy our new boat without this hanging over us. We tried to have faith, but couldn’t help but feel scammed.

The RS and I feel so much relief! R.E.S.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.

This was the day we bought the boat! Good riddance. We’ll never own a boat this big again, unless we have millions and a house on deep water.

Bye-bye boat!!! The nightmare is over.

Have you ever been scammed?

Blog Tour: Love Aflame by Pamela Beckford

Pamela Beckford publishes her 3rd solo poetry collection. Using various poetic forms she illustrates how love can set the heart on fire but also shows how that same love can turn to ashes. Poetry is an expression from deep within the soul. It can be therapeutic and healing. It can bring out all the best or the worst in life. Her poetry comes from the heart, not the head. It is an outpouring of emotion and she exposes it to the reader in the pages. She leaves a piece of her soul in every poem
Reviewers have said things like:
“Pamela’s poems are refreshing since they are truly written from the heart. She has a gift of writing a poem that speaks to each person’s heart and emotions.”
“Breathtaking. That singular word – breathtaking – is the best one-word description of “Dreams of Love” by Pamela Beckford that kept coming to mind as I lingered within the pages.”

“These are not just words strung together in forms. Somehow she manages to share huge and deep emotions with two words – or one. ”
“Pamela’s poetry is diverse and creative. Lyrical without self-conscious fluff. Quiet confidence in her abilities with the various forms.”

Pamela Beckford has been writing poetry for about two years. She began writing with the encouragement of a couple of friends and has found that it has taken over her mind. She is a nonprofit CEO and enjoys reading with children on a regular basis, as well as her own reading. She lives in northern Indiana where she devotes her life to others through her job and her family.